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Eliminate Wi-Fi blind spots with the Linksys Velop

Multiple Velop units can be linked up to relay data and the improved Wi-Fi coverage is especially useful for those with larger or multi-storey homes.
Multiple Velop units can be linked up to relay data and the improved Wi-Fi coverage is especially useful for those with larger or multi-storey homes.PHOTO: LINKSYS

The Linksys Velop Wi-Fi System is not your typical home router. While a single Velop unit can indeed perform like a router, it can also link up with multiple Velop units to relay data, forming a mesh to cover your home in Wi-Fi. The improved Wi-Fi coverage is especially useful for those with larger or multi-storey homes.

Velop is not the first such solution in the market that can also eliminate Wi-Fi blind spots. Rival Netgear launched its Orbi Wi-Fi System last year, while Singtel offers a similar Wi-Fi Mesh bundle.

Both the Velop and the Orbi support three wireless bands, with one band reserved for communication between units. Hence, they usually perform better than competitors that lack this extra band.

With its tower design, the Velop looks like a PC speaker. Its six antennas are hidden inside a sleek white body. It has just two Gigabit LAN ports and lacks USB ports to enable file-sharing from an attached storage device.

A single circular LED at the top lights up when the Velop is turned on. Different colours are used to convey information. A solid blue light means all is well.A solid red indicates no Internet connection.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $349 (1 unit), $599 (2 units), $749 (3 units)

    ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit ports

    STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

    SECURITY: WPA2


    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The Linksys mobile app (available for iOS and Android) is required to set up the Velop. There is no Web-based interface. Sign up for a free Linksys Smart Wi-Fi cloud account if you wish to monitor your home network from anywhere with Internet access.

It took me around 10 to 15min to get the first Velop unit up and running. The app provided clear, graphical instructions. But the set-up process could still be improved - I had to manually enter the default password (found at the bottom of each Velop unit). This feels old-fashioned compared with competitors, such as Google Wi-Fi, which use audio tones that do not require my input.

Adding more units to form the mesh Wi-Fi system is similar to setting up the first unit. The Velop will helpfully indicate - with a solid yellow LED - if the current location for a new unit is too far from existing Velop units.

I found that two units were adequate for my home. Wi-Fi signal strength in my bedrooms went up to over 80 per cent. Previously, it would vary from 31 to 68 per cent with a standard router.

In addition, the Velop managed speeds of up to 183Mbps in my bedroom, compared with wireless extenders that achieve 10 to 20Mbps in the same scenario.

However, the Velop was slightly slower than the Orbi in my usual speed test in the living room. The former managed 324Mbps to the latter's 382Mbps. Top routersachieve speeds of 500 to 600Mbps.

Networking options are limited to port forwarding and filtering of devices by MAC address. The Velop supports guest networks, parental controls and device prioritisation. However, the parental controls are primitive - you are limited to blocking specific websites (up to 10) or devices. I could not schedule when to turn on or off the parental controls, though Linksys says the capability will be in a future update.

A single Velop costs as much as a mid-range router. Two units cost $599 compared with a pair of Orbi ($649). But the larger Orbi currently offers more features and more ports. On the other hand, the Linksys app is less clunky and more user-friendly.

• Verdict: Those suffering from Wi-Fi blind spots at home may find the Velop useful. But it is pricey and has fewer features than most routers. It is better to wait till Linksys improves it with future updates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Eliminate Wi-Fi blind spots with the Linksys Velop'. Print Edition | Subscribe